The best books of love poetry that are not all hearts and flowers and mush

Who am I?

When writing my book, it seemed only natural for me to bring poetry into the love story I’d created. I fell in love with poetry in high school, and it has always felt like a more powerful, compact, and intense way of expressing deep emotions. And it’s so much more complex than hearts and flowers, hence my title for this list! I wanted to use a poem that summed up the intensity of a physical encounter between new lovers. And Rilke was perfect for that. The other books are favourites, books I’ve had for years, and they’ve been good background for my writing in general.

I wrote...

Finding Our Way

By Barbara L.B. Storey,

Book cover of Finding Our Way

What is my book about?

Two people stranded in the middle of nowhere for an entire weekend, with no way to call for help. How can such a thing happen in the 21st century? But it does, giving Becca and Jon the chance to let someone into their carefully guarded lives... to fall in love. As utterly different as they are, a stroke of fate takes Becca and John through the highest and lowest points of an improbable love story that neither of them could have foreseen.

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The books I picked & why

Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations

By Rainer Maria Rilke, John J.L. Mood (translator),

Book cover of Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties: Translations and Considerations

Why did I love this book?

Rilke has been my favourite poet since I was in my 20s—the depth of emotion and the lack of sentiment is what attracts me to his work. In his mind, love is a very serious thing, as the title suggests. No hearts and roses—just the truth about human emotions. I use one of the poems (“The Seven Phallic Poems, IV”) in this book in my book—Jon reads it to Becca at a very intimate moment. I believe Rilke’s work in this book was my introduction to erotic poetry.

By Rainer Maria Rilke, John J.L. Mood (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rilke on Love and Other Difficulties as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is a mini-anthology of poetry and prose for both aficionados and those readers discovering Rainer Maria Rilke for the first time. John J. L. Mood has assembled a collection of Rilke's strongest work, presenting commentary along with the selections. Mood links into an essay passages from letters that show Rilke's profound understanding of men and women and his ardent spirituality, rooted in the senses.

Combining passion and sensitivity, the poems on love presented here are often not only sensual but sexual as well. Others pursue perennial themes in his work-death and life, growth and transformation. The book concludes with…

Book cover of Rumi: The Book of Love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing

Why did I love this book?

I discovered Rumi’s work several years ago, and I like it because there is a spiritual or philosophical tone to everything he writes. When he speaks of love, it’s with a reverence or awe of the power of love. Nothing graphic, nothing explicitjust the beating heart of what love means and how it affects us emotionally. Chivalry and adoration rather than passion and breathlessness. My favourite poem in this book: “Some Kiss We Want.”

By Coleman Barks,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Rumi as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now in paperback, this is the definitive collection of America's bestselling poet Rumi's finest poems of love and lovers. In Coleman Barks' delightful and wise renderings, these poems will open your heart and soul to the lover inside and out. 'There are lovers content with longing. I'm not one of them.' Rumi is best known for his poems expressing the ecstasies and mysteries of love of all kinds - erotic, divine, friendship -and Coleman Barks collects here the best of those poems, ranging from the 'wholeness' one experiences with a true lover, to the grief of a lover's loss, and…

Book cover of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English

Why did I love this book?

I have always had old-fashioned tastes when it comes to poetry, and sonnets in particular are a form I have been attracted to. This anthology has the best sonnets from Chaucer to contemporary poets, a real education in the form, and one of my favourites here is by e.e. cummings, titled “I like my body when it is with your body.”

By Phillis Levin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Penguin Book of the Sonnet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the oldest literary forms of the post-classical world, the sonnet has engaged nearly every well-known poet writing in a Western language. This collection reveals how each writer - from William Wordsworth to Wilfred Owen - met the challenge of transforming an inherited pattern and convention. The result is like a living conversation between past and present. In a fascinating and extensive introduction, Levin traces the origins of the sonnet back to Italy, and follows its development from the Elizabethan era to the Romantic and Victorian, later discussing its popularity among the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and the…

Book cover of Revel: A Triple Shot of Café Poems

Why did I love this book?

This book is by a friend of mine, so holds a special place in my heart, because she’s so good. I also helped edit and format her book. She’s an artist and an author and her poems are mostly written in a coffee shop called Revel. They’re short, with deep and true images of everyday lifelove, coffee, and everything in betweenas seen by an artist.

By Carla Coles,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Revel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In my favorite cafe
Losing myself
To poetry that somehow knows me

Savouring my coffee
and the moment
warm in my blanket

Outside rushes by
Against winter's white
blustery business and large flakes

Step inside
come over
Please join me

Book cover of Collected Poems, 1930-1993

Why did I love this book?

After Rilke, May Sarton is my favourite poet. I love her because her work is about the meanings of everyday things. She sees life through the eyes of an introvert, which I identify with completely, and she is able to bring out aspects of simple things that others miss. Her thoughts on love range from people in love“Lovers at the Zoo”to the intense grief at the loss of a pet “Death and the Turtle.”

By May Sarton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Collected Poems, 1930-1993 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucid, ardent, and contemplative, May Sarton is one of America's best-loved writers. This comprehensive collection - the first in twenty years - celebrates six decades of bold imagination and fifteen books of poetry, the creative output of a lifetime. Arranged chronologically, these poems reveal the full breadth of Sarton's creative vision. Themes include the search for an inward order, her passions, the natural world, self-knowledge, and, in her latest poems, the trials of old age. Moving through Sarton's work, we see her at ease in both traditional forms and free verse, finding inspiration in snow over a dark sea, a…

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